Friday, 25 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 28: Honolulu Civil Beat

The buzz is officially out, and Civil Beat's moment has arrived.

Honolulu became a one-horse town this month, or rather a one-newspaper town, after the "merger" of the Honolulu Advertiser and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. We suspect that the death of the Advertiser was the opportunity that eBay founder and Hawaiʻi resident Pierre Omidyar had been praying for, and he launched his oft-whispered-about news service, Honolulu Civil Beat, at almost the exact same time as the Advertiser's shuttering.

Civil Beat has (so far) got the plot mostly right. They aren't attempting to capture breaking news stories; readers can get that information from large news organizations or from Civil Beat's correspondents' Twitter feeds. Instead, Civil Beat intends to differentiate itself from its competition by the increased depth and duration of its reportage. Whereas other news organizations relay to their audiences a one-way report on discrete stories, the Civil Beat journalists discuss specific topics over a longer term with website users.

And discuss, they do.

Those Civil Beat readers who would like to gain full access to the all the website's features will have to pay a $19.99 monthy fee (amazingly, via PayPal), but once they do, they will be able to participate in Civil Beat's discussions ad infinitum.

We think that this is a very clever move. News outlets must have discussion forums; it keeps the audience engaged and steers them away from the dangerously democratic world of the Blogosphere, where things could, at any moment, spin completely out of control when people decide to start thinking and analyzing for themselves. The problem so far with most such discussion forums is that the anonymity of internet posting allows participants to post writings that would never be fit for conventional printing. Often, and particularly with issues related to identity political issues, the conversations become little more than 10th-grade vain-little-girl/plain-little-girl, ad-hominem hissyfits.

Honolulu Civil Beat has wisely taken steps to solve that problem by charging for access and by collecting the fee via PayPal. Firstly, the price alone will deter many would-be undesired posters but more importantly, paying via PayPal will likely identify someone responsible for the user's account. What's more, real names are used on Civil Beat's website, and these factors have, at least so far, gone far to engender a civil atmosphere suitable to the website's mission.

We still have questions about charging $19.99 for online news. Everybody does, though. Honolulu Civil Beat's greatest challenge is, in our eyes, that nobody expects to pay for news content online. We also have questions about the website's lack of visual interest (where are the arresting photographs?) and still sparse content. And also, why isn't Catherine Toth on the Civil Beat staff? She is, after all, Honolulu's Best Journalist.

We do have faith in Pierre Omidyar. He knows the internet—he's a true pioneer—and we assume that he's at least several steps ahead of us. As for us, though—we're not subscribing yet. It'd be money wasted, because we would be banished from Civil Beat in a matter of days since we wouldn't hesitate to voice our opinion that Linda Lingle is a "despicable, old hag."

Friday, 18 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 27: The Goodnight Kiwi

Hawaiʻi desperately needs an instantly recognizable animal mascot. Humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpuaʻa perhaps? Nēnē, or will Canada accuse us of filching their national bird? How about the Wallabies of Kalihi?

Aotearoa New Zealand has no problem with their national animal identity. At the mere mention of "kiwi" quite specific notions are top-of-mind: pathetically cute, flightless bird; outdoorsy pseudo-Englishmen; a country that not only always sits at the grown-up table but should be presiding over it permanently; and a hairy, testicle-like fruit that's green on the inside, full of vitamin-c, that nobody much likes.

Aotearoa has put this kiwi to work just about everywhere, so we hope that it has good union representation and a cracking lawyer. One of our favorite memories of Aotearoa in the 1980s is the national bird working as "The Goodnight Kiwi."

In those halcyon days before TVNZ was broadcasting what we'll charitably term "entertainment" 24/7, the broadcasting day was sweetly capped with The Goodnight Kiwi. He would turn off the last bit of programming, put on a muzak version of "Hine e Hine" and then retire to his nest at the pinnacle of the TVNZ transmitting tower, accompanied by his best friend—a curiously sized cat.

When we were young and in Aotearoa, we couldn't get enough of this. We loved thinking of the kiwi out on the horizon somewhere, sleeping under the Southern Cross; we found it all endlessly reassuring and charming. All these years later, we're still willing to suspend our disbelief that a kiwi has the manual dexterity to place a tape into a player or to operate a lift, and we can not ask ourselves why the cat is so small or why the cat isn't doing what cats famously do in Aotearoa—eat kiwis. It's just wonderful.

Hawaiʻi needs something similar. We needs more romantics. We need more verve. We need more people passionately devouring life. We need more people passionately in love with Hawaiʻi.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 26: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky

Yes, we know that the gray, murky world of human affairs is anything but sybaritic. We're featuring this particular Quality of Life Improvement because we believe that it may actually change your life for the better, in a way that's different from a holiday on Maui or a new pair of Louboutin pumps—the normal fare for The Hawaiian Sybarite.

Noam Chomsky is to us like Betty White: someone who's not allowed to ever die, or at least not allowed to die before us. Together with perhaps Norman Finkelstein and Marianne Faithfull, Chomsky is one of the few living heroes that we have, and it will be a dark day for us when he's gone.

Chomsky, known originally for his work in the field of linguistics, came to be known as a political figure when he wrote in explicit opposition to the war in Vietnam in 1967. He soon became better known for his articulate, often disturbingly accurate political talks and essays rather than his life's work in linguistics and, according to the New York Times, in the intervening four decades has also become "the most widely read American voice on foreign policy on the planet today." Though now 81 years old, his prolific output of political commentary has continued at pace to his latest book, Hopes and Prospects.

Hopes and Prospects contains—hold on to your hats—Chomsky's hopes and prospects for the future of humanity. Critics of Chomsky abound, and one of the criticisms most often assigned to him is that his work is heavy on vituperation, doom and blame but runs thin on practical solutions. Chomsky contends that he offers plenty of rational, even conservative solutions, but they simply aren't the ones preferred by those in power.

Hopes and Prospects is intended to present contemporary problems (interestingly and appealingly, the chapters are arranged geographically) and then offer workable solutions.

"In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism," reads the book's review by Publisher's Weekly, "[and] the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us."

Of local significance, Noam Chomsky attains an almost sainted position with us at The Hawaiian Sybarite because he never forgets the crimes committed against Hawaiʻi by the United States. In Hopes and Prospects alone, the subject of US aggression against Hawaiʻi receives two mentions. While we pray that he will eventually give us his evaluation of the hopes and prospects for our archipelago, in comparison to the catastrophes and atrocitites that beset those nations mentioned in Chomsky's Hopes and Prospects, our very real grievances appear to be less urgent.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 25: Teenage Engineering

The Teens from Stockholm have just released a few demo videos featuring their upcoming OP-1. For those of you who don't know much about the project, please go to its website to first explore and then enjoy! For those of you who know a bit more, please feel free to skip straight to enjoy!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Update: The new Hawaiian Airlines long-range fleet

As we reported last month, Hawaiian Airlines has recently taken delivery of its first two Airbus A330 aircraft, with 10 more A330s on order. At the time of the first aircraft's arrival in Honolulu, few details were known about the interior fixtures and fittings, but we're pleased to now be able to relay the following information from the Kam Family Blog:

"Passengers flying in coach class on Hawaiian’s A330 will enjoy the comforts of the new aircraft, including more legroom and a state-of-the-art on-demand entertainment system. High-resolution LCD touch screen monitors in each seatback allow each passenger to choose from a wide selection of movies and video programs, audio channels and video games. Each system also includes a USB port allowing connectivity for personal media players. First Class passengers on Hawaiian’s new A330 aircraft will enjoy the added advantages of larger in-seat LCD screens and iPOD compatibility."

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 24: "I'm Not in Love"

"I'm Not in Love" by the English group 10cc is one of our most favorite songs, but one that sadly never seems to come up on our iPod's shuffle feature, which is a shame, because it happens to be the rarest of quantities—a unique pop song. "I'm Not in Love" is wistful, clever, romantic, forlorn and sweet simultaneously. Moreover, it expresses a genuine feeling: the cruellest labyrinthine that is the struggle to relate to the one that you're hugely in love with when you're no longer so young and when you're already set in your ways and when you have constructed an impenetrable palisade of ego-defenses.

We're dedicating this one to someone very special—you know who you are—and we hope that he enjoys it.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 23: Arne Vodder

The work of one of our favorite Danish Modernists, Arne Vodder, is now back in production.

Great Dane Furniture has obtained the license to many of Vodder's most recognizable designs, which are, thankfully, being produced in Denmark by Danish cabinetmakers.

Arne Vodder (1926-2009) trained as an architect and was a student of one of our great heroes, Finn Juhl, and the influence of Juhl's cool, un-dogmatic approach to design is immediately apparent in Vodder's work. After training with Juhl, Vodder then worked with the venerable Danish furniture-makers Fritz Hansen and, most famously, with Sibast Møbler.

It was with Sibast that he created his most famous pieces of furniture, almost always with his trademark: flawless construction of rosewood or teak, sensuous curving handles and judicious, often unexpected, use of color. In particular, Vodder is remembered for his credenzas and desks produced by Sibasts' cabinetmakers in the 1950s through 1970s. But while his designs remained popular in Scandinavia, the changing tastes of the non-Nordic consumer and the growing scarcity of tropical woods in the 1970s meant the end of production of his designs for Sibast.

For the last 40 years, Vodder's work has been available in ever-decreasing quantity only at auction or from dealers of vintage furniture. Now, Great Dane Furniture has reissued some of his best-known furniture, including two dining tables, two chests of drawers, a bedside table, a hall table and a coffee table, with all production now in European oak and American walnut.

We always love a back-story, and this one is great. Apparently, the proprietors of Great Dane Furniture befriended Arne Vodder on one of their buying trips to Denmark, and not only did Vodder agree to allow his furniture to be reproduced by Great Dane starting in 2009, but the production process of was overseen by the architect himself.

"Arne said the project would keep him alive for a few more days and it did, but sadly on the evening of December 27th* he passed away," Great Dane's owners said. "The truth is it will keep him alive forever in design history. We have lost a great talent and a true friend."
*redactor's note: December 27, 2009.

The Arne Vodder range of reissued classics is available from Great Dane Furniture, 116 Commercial Road, Prahran, Victoria, 3181, Australia, (03) 9510 6111

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hauʻoli lā Mōʻī Kamehameha

Today is Kamehameha Day, and this is one holiday that we like. Established by proclamation of Kamehameha I's great-grandson Kamehameha V in 1871, the holiday commemorates Kamehameha's unification of the eight principal Hawaiian islands and the establishment of the unified Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. This is a particularly noteworthy Kamehameha Day because it happens to be the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

For those of you in Hawaiʻi, we hope that you enjoy the festivities. For everyone, in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere, we hope that you will first consider and then judge, with something as close to critical objectivity as possible, the events in the Kingdom over the last two centuries.

In the generation preceding Kamehameha, Kahekilinuiʻahumanu of Maui (Kahekili II) united all Hawaiian Islands, with the notable exception of the Island of Hawaiʻi, for the first time. Kamehameha, born with the heralding of a comet in the Kohala district on the island of Hawaiʻi in 1758 (or maybe 1737) managed to first unite the islands and then deftly navigate the treacherous malstrøm of competing colonial powers, while also promulgating the Māmalahoe Kānāwai, an acknowledged ancestor of today's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

That's the popular story, and it may be true. But a different, complementary history of Kamehameha I also exists: Kamehameha I, the beginning of the end.

In contrast to Kahekili II, Kamehameha I enthusiastically engaged the European powers, in particular Great Britain, and in 1794 he asked Great Britain to establish a protectorate over the Island of Hawaiʻi in exchange for a warship to fight Kahekili II. To many Hawaiians and their supporters, the subsequent history has been little more than a series of disappointments and catastrophes.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the Māori met Europeans with warfare, and have retained a measure of their land, culture and dignity. In Hawaiʻi, Kamehameha I met Europeans with the Aloha spirit, and Hawaiians have been denigrated ever since. Kamehameha drew Europeans into his court, married them to local noblewomen, and appointed them as governors of islands—the Welsh sailor Isaac Davis as governor of Oʻahu and the Englishman, John Young, as governor of the Island of Hawaiʻi.

More Europeans came, then Americans, then Calvinist missionaries. By 1890, U.S. minister to Hawaiʻi John Stevens was able to happily inform U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine that "the native population of 60 years ago is reduced less than one-third … and it is continually growing less." Stevens could barely control his excitement as he reported that "just one-half of the total population is of the original Hawaiian race," with only "a small proportion of the lands and other properties and in their possession."

In 1892, John Stevens, still in his official capacity, wrote to newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Forster that "The value of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States for commercial and naval purposes has been well understood by American statesmen for more than half a century. To postpone American action many years is only to add to present unfavorable tenencies and to make future possession more difficult." Stevens concludes his letter with his command: "Americanize the islands, assume control of the 'crown lands.'"

It's all very sensible—from the American perspective, and only when the American public has been properly trained in doublethink, so that they are able to destroy one nation while simultaneously lauding their own democratic humanism and perceive no ethical contradiction therein.

In Stevens' letters, the opinions of Hawaiians about their own country are absent, but it wasn't especially important what Hawaiians thought. Nor was it important what the growing Asian population thought; That was made explicit.

"There are such a large number of Chinese and other cheap laborers on the islands who cannot be trusted to vote intelligently," Charles L. Carter, a member of the Hawaiʻi Provisional Government's Annexation Committee, told the New York World, "that if universal suffrage was declared the whites who represent almost the entire business interest of the country, would be outvoted and powerless."

This subversion of democracy and passionate opposition to basic human rights continued through the twentieth-century. Hawaiʻi's 1959 Admission Act plebiscite was conducted in brazen disregard of the United Nations charter, and therefore both U.S. and International Law. It is an impressive achievement of the United States' intellectual class that the Admission Act and Hawaiʻi's status as 50th state—both cynical frauds—are the subject of almost no critical media debate. The American propagandists' counterparts in Beijing or Moscow are no doubt envious that they can't have such an easy job in silencing dissent and liquidating their conquered neighbors.

The United States' commissars have done their jobs so well that next month, we in Hawaiʻi will be encouraged to take part in the utterly grotesque exercise of celebrating the independence of the uninvited messianic colonizer that destroyed our own independence, and in fact continues its mission to destroy what's left of our country.

Few things are truly intractable, and the case of Hawaiʻi v. The United States of America is actually a simple one, since nearly all facts are uncontested by both sides. For today, Hawaiʻi will, in the words of Francine du Plessix Gray, "remain profoundly hedonistic and provincial, a sugar-coated fortress, an autistic Eden, a plastic paradise in which the militarism and racism of the American empire are cloaked by a deceptive veil of sunshine and of flowers."

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 22: The Joy of Sake

Hawaiʻi's King David Laʻamea Kamanakapuʻu Mahinulani Nalaiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua-a-Kapaʻakea, the endearingly dissolute Merrie Monarch and last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was a true sybarite generally and, in particular, a famous appreciator of sake. In fact, when King Kalākaua arranged a dockside sumō tournament to honor the arrival of Hawaiʻi's first Japanese contract laborers on 8 February, 1885, the tournament prize was a cache of sake barrels.

We assume that the rikishi were pleased with their liquid purse, but the next day's edition of The Honolulu Advertiser wasn't particularly impressed; the article's author generously described sake as, "[a] fine beverage … not 'catlap' at least."

Sake had to be imported to Hawaiʻi until December, 1908, when Hiroshima-born Tajiro Sumida delivered the first products from his newly established Honolulu Sake Brewery. The brewery's first vintage was a disaster; Hawaiʻi's heat, humidity and sun conspired to spoil the newly-brewed sake.

But Sumida's brewery gleaned priceless lessons from their initial frustrations. The brewery introduced a major innovation to the sake industry when they refrigerated the fermentation area of their brewery—a necessity in Hawaiʻi—and the practice that was soon adopted in Japan. Hawaiʻi sake brewers introduced stainless steel equipment to the brewing-process, and were the first to use California rice in the manufacture of sake. Maybe most significantly, in 1958 Honolulu brewmaster Takao Nihei identified a mutant strain of yeast, used today throughout the sake-brewing industry, that produced far less froth in the brewing vat during fermentation, thereby increasing production yields per-vat by about one third.

With Hawaiʻi's contributions to the world of sake in mind, it is appropriate that Honolulu is home to the largest sake tasting event in the Americas: The Joy of Sake.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the event, and for the second year it will be held at the Honolulu Academy of Arts this August 19. We're told that over 300 sakes will be offered to participants, which will be paired with tasting plates from "some of Honolulu's best restaurants."

We at The Hawaiian Sybarite especially like the detail that sake vessels made by local ceramicists from the Linekona Art Center will on offer. A classy move.

In a vulgar tone, the organizers of the event inform us gleefully that "As a special perk for Academy members, Joy of Sake will again have premium tables," before continuing to explain, in bold, that "This year, the premium tables will be cordoned off in an exclusive VIP area. This members-only benefit was a hit last year—they sold out in days."

The phrases "cordoned off in an exclusive VIP area" and "members-only" turn us off immediately and the foregoing quotations demonstrate our suspicions: that the likable concept of the event—the appreciation of an ancient cultural institution with our fellow citizens—is, to many of the event's participants, reduced to little more than an excuse for tawdry pretensions and obvious displays of wealth. Sake is mostly incidental to the affair.

What: The Joy of Sake: America's Largest Sake Celebration
When: Thursday, August 19, 2010, 6-8:30pm
Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 900 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, 96814-1429 (808) 532-8700
Price: Individual: $80 per person. VIP reserved seating: $150 per person.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 21: Marvis Toothpaste

A dentifrice for gourmands, Marvis is Italy's answer to Tom's of Maine.

Tom's products are always useful and inoffensive, as well as exceedingly responsible, but sometimes your teeth are desperate for something more than fluoride-free spearmint, and that's not even taking into consideration the feelings of your opinionated palate.

As luck would have it, Italy saves the day with it's knack for turning the dull drudgeries of banal existence into minor events in themselves.

Marvis toothpaste is an Italian classic of both industry and design. The packaging isn't exactly minimalistic, and it's obviously not an unchanged classic of design identity, either. It's an apothecary-approximating pastiche, and a charmingly incoherent pastiche at that; This toothpaste may be the only conversation-piece of its kind, and it looks much too good to be secreted behind the moldering door of a medicine cabinet.

Marvis' different toothpastes all start as the classic "strong mint" formulation. and are then modified through the addition of carefully selected aromas, including: Jasmine, Ginger and the intriguingly named "Aquatic Mint," which is described by Marvis only as "a 'sweet, cool' touch of mint with the cool freshness of the sea."

We're partial to Marvis' Jasmin Mint toothpaste, which tastes to us something like Jasmine tea wth mint, and is almost as refreshing. We can't think of any toothpaste more appropriate for summer in the tropics.

Marvis toothpastes are available from and C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Quality of Life Improvement 20: Tenzin Phakmo

Tenzin Phakmo, a Tibetan visual artist born in Nepal, will be exhibiting his work for the first time in Hawai'i with a show opening on Wednesday, June 9.

Currently based in New York, Tenzin was born in Pokhara, Nepal on New Year's Day, 1981. He attended schools in Nepal and India, and was a student of revered Nepalese artist Guru Alok Gurung.

"Working with local Nepali artists steered my art more into a Nepali Art. But, later on as my artistic abilities matured, it felt in need of an origin, a base and a big sense of who I was; that is when my art felt a strong connection with my Tibetan heritage. My love for strokes, the richness in color always gave form to beautiful imaginations and as always I wanted to be true to the reality of images, I started taking photos before I started a painting," Tenzin explained about the process of creating his art. "My imagination shapes the initial idea of a painting, followed by my photos and then I try to do justice using both. In reality, each painting of mine has a distinct story behind it. Some paintings have a certain relationship with previous ones, whereas some stand alone."

With the encouragement of his Guru and the friendship of Maj Andrew Duncan of the British Gurkhas Nepal, Tenzin participated in numerous group exhibitions, and had his first solo exhibition in October, 2004. Tenzin's work is now part of the collection of Manhattan's Rubin Museum of Art as well as being included in the personal collection of Dolan Rubin.

Tenzin Phakmo's exhibition will open with an evening of mini spa treatments and light refreshments on Wednesday, June 9, at Allure Hair Studio and Day Spa in Manoa.

Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Time: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Allure Hair Studio and Day Spa, 2801 East Manoa Road, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 96822
RSVP: (808) 988-3350